China, as most of us know, has been showing a greater amount of interest in Africa over the past few years. The Chinese have been investing heavily in the continent, and trade between the two has jumped significantly. In early 2006, China – Africa trade was up by 39% to £18bn.
Personally I do not know enough about the relationship between China and Africa, or China’s intentions towards Africa… Some commentators – such as International Herald Tribune’s Howard W. French – are very enthusiastic and see China’s growing investment as evidence that Western governments and companies who continue to go on about poverty and aid are missing out on major financial benefits, to China’s advantage.
I think it’s great that China is investing in Africa, but I must admit I am a little sceptical. I know China is also offering aid and loans to Africa…and African governments must be careful not to end up in the same situation as they have with the West who previously came offering ‘development’ money – complete with handcuffs.
Does the importing of Chinese goods into Africa undermine production of indigenous African-made goods? And what about China’s financial support for Robert Mugabe’s destructive regime and their 2005 pledge to give him money but not interfere in ‘internal [Zimbabwean] affairs’?
A Ghanian government minister today echoed my sentiments, encouraging Africa to avoid a colonial relationship with China. Africa must remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and keep the relationship one that is as mutually beneficial as possible.